Republican presidential candidates gathered on Tuesday for their televised debate, in Las Vegas, Nevada, the state with one of the fastest growing Latino voter populations in the country.
The Hispanic vote is now seeing as being key to the 2012 election. However, a new poll finds GOP presidential candidates have low recognition among Latino voters. The poll was conducted by Latino Decisions which asked 600 Hispanic registered voters in more than 20 states their impressions of the GOP candidates.
The poll showed that Latino voters are very unfamiliar with the GOP candidates and generally do not hold particularly favorable images of those candidates.
“None of the Republican presidential candidates has been able to captive or attract the attention of Latinos until now,” Latino Decisions states in the release.
Among the better-known candidates in the group of eight are Mitt Romney and Rick Perry although 46 percent have no opinion or have never heard of Romney, and 40 percent have never heard of Perry.
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor is favored by 28 percent of Latino voters while 25 percent have an unfavorable impression of him. Perry, who would be the closest to Latinos in the Republican primaries as governor of Texas, is not known by 40 percent of Latinos voters.
A professor at the University of Washington in Seattle and an advisor for Latino Decisions said the poll “shows they must conduct an intensive campaign if they want to attract part of the Latino vote.”
“The majority of these voters don’t even know them.”
Hispanic voters have played a key role in past elections and are again being considered pivotal in the 2012 election. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Hispanic voters comprised a record 7 percent of ballots cast in the 2010 congressional elections. The figure was the highest percentage of participation by Hispanics for a non-presidential election since 1974. In 2006 Hispanics made up 6 percent of the electorate.
President Barack Obama won most of the Latino vote in 2008. But a recent poll by Resurgent Republic shows Obama now underperforming among the states with the higher Latino populations.
Republicans now see an opportunity in Obama’s soft standing among Hispanics. However, they have challenges of their own, especially in regards to issues such as illegal immigration. The GOP poll found that the majority of Hispanics favor a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the United States.
Some GOP Candidates such as Michelle Bachmann and Herman Cain are in danger of being rejected by the Hispanic population as they have recently made comments to combat illegal immigration, which reportedly angered many Latino voters.